October 22, 2009

The Bridge At Corjuem

Like with most things in Goa the bridge at Corjuem revealed itself as we rounded a bend in the road we had ridden over from Aldona. The road ran on to Quitla while we turned right before slowing down on the approach to the cable-stayed bridge over the river Mapusa at Corjuem (Khorjuem).

Earlier in the evening while passing through Carona on our way to Aldona we rode down a gentle slope that ran past the Mascarenhas home, the entrance guarded by a pair of lions in a profusion of brightly coloured gardening plants.

Hidden in leaves that rose behind the lion to the left, a clay soldier stood erect, his right hand raised in a smart salute. A letter box was welded to the gate that led up a short flight of steps to the cemented approach to the Mascarenhas home set back from the gate by several metres.

From the gate the porch was visible under a sloping roof of Mangalore tiles. In all probability it housed a balcao where the family rested in the humid afternoons for a bit of breeze or when neighbours stopped by to catch up on events marking the day. A balcao is where Goan families from an earlier era often connect with the world outside their drawing rooms. It is where they watch over children playing outside. It is also where they welcome visitors or see them off.

Growing up I used to sit in the balcao of the Rebellos and watch pigs and piglets upto their antics. Now I cannot imagine Goa without balcaos.

A quick picture later Jags and I rode down the slope before turning left in the direction of Aldona. Ahead lay a red house. Creepers and thick vegetation rose on either side of the narrow road.

As we came up the incline past the red house a group of villagers in Carona had gathered for prayers in Konkani in front of a roadside Cross. Carona is predominantly Christian. We paused by the shrine to Jesus to take in the divinity of the evening. The prayers hit high notes before evening out. To a travelling eye they soothed the journey and in the chorus the unity of a rural setting shone through. A road curved viciously and sloped down behind the Cross, past quiet homes.

There was scarcely a soul on the road save an occasional motorcyclist, the roar trailing long after he had disappeared round the red house we had passed a few minutes earlier. The sky was overcast. It was approaching six in the evening.

We came upon paddy fields to our left. Two women were scything through knee high paddy crop as we rode on to Aldona, reaching the village square minutes later. Further on the road ran to Mapusa. We turned right in the direction of Quitla, minutes later turning off the road the second time and onto the the approach to the Corjuem bridge.

The Sun had broken through the clouds, lighting up the colourful cables that held the bridge over the Mapusa. At the time of its completion in 2004 it was only the sixth cable-stayed bridge in India. For travelers between Aldona and Corjuem it offered an efficient alternative to the river ferry that plied across the stretch of the Mapusa river between the two villages. In time the river ferry became redundant.

The pillars rise to 49 metres and can be seen from far, above coconut groves, only competing with the Aldona church that seemingly rises to the skies when seen from the former ferry point we would visit later in the evening. The bridge spans 235 metres and was built at an estimated cost of rupees 23 crores. At the time there was talk of developing the Corjuem fort, a short distance away, into a tourist spot. The fort dates back to 1705 A.D. and unlike other forts in Goa that face the sea it is one of the only two found inland. On visiting the fort after crossing the bridge and turning left we found little or no sign of much having transpired in the time the bridge was thrown open to the public in 2004.

However we stopped for a bite of Poli and Batata Vada before resolving to visit the fort another time. The light was beginning to drop and we still had the former ferry point to visit. I was not very keen on it though. It’s never easy on me to see a formerly busy ferry point ferrying travelers across the river now lying desolate.

The poli was soft and elastic. The vendor said it came from a bakery in Assnora. The batata vada was oily and cold. I asked for two polis as the vendor reached into his basket fitted to the back of his bicycle. An elderly villager who had stopped by the vendor for snacking on poli and batata vada smiled before asking me,

“You’re buying one poli for the two of you?”

“No, I asked for two,” I replied, returning his smile.

He smiled back.

Then we rode back the way we had come, stopping by a roadside shop for a drink of Fanta. The orange drink soothed our throats gone dry from the long ride.

A calendar on the wall depicted the momentous scene from the Mahabharata when in the heat of battle with the Kauravas at Kurukshetra fought thousands of years ago, Lord Krishna instructs the kneeling Arjun of his dharma, calling him to his duty while dispelling his apprehension and doubts he is beset with on facing up to his own great grand-father Bhishma, his cousins the Kauravas, and his teacher Dronacharya on the battlefield. Krishna’s teachings on duty and righteousness in the middle of the battle at Kurukshetra came to be collected in the Bhagavad Gita, and is revered by the Hindus.

Lord Krishna is worshipped and celebrated across India by the Hindus and rests prominently in their pantheon of deities.

Pausing at the sacred scene from the Mahabharata in the calendar issued by Sattari Liquor Traders, wholesalers of Indian Made Foreign Liquor, and Haldankar Liquor Industries, manufacturers of Cajulana, Cashew, and Coconut Fenny (Feni), it rightly reminded me of Kali Yuga that commenced on the demise of Lord Krishna.

Kali Yuga is known as the age of Kali, the male demon, and also as the age of vice! In the Hindu school of thought the Kali Yuga is the last of the four Yugas or stages the world will cycle through before ending on account of its spiritual degeneration largely brought upon by vices. The demise of Lord Krishna kick started the age of Kali or Kali Yuga.

Before stepping out I reflected for a moment on the irony of advertising liquor on a calendar depicting Lord Krishna given that the Age of Kali or the Age of vice commenced with his disappearance from Earth!

Refreshed by the orange drink we continued straight down the road past the approach to the cable-stayed bridge, passing the spacious Corjuem Gymkhana dating from 1946 before turning right at the corner where the Mae De Deus (Mother of God) chapel straddles the approach to the former ferry point that was a lifeline to travelers between Corjuem and Aldona not too long ago.

In the distance the bridge seemingly rose from the vegetation along the Corjuem bank of the Mapusa river.

Where the ramp once sloped down to the water thick grass now obscured it. Only on looking closer did the outlines of the ramp reveal themselves in the knee high grass.

I closed my eyes and imagined the probable evening scene from years ago as passengers awaited the ferry at Corjuem, pacing the approach while the ferry lay berthed awaiting passengers on the Aldona side of the river. It must be entirely possible to see the ferryman loosen the rope securing it to the ramp and hear the pulleys lift the gangplank as the ferry blew its horn before pulling out of the opposite bank on its way across the river to Corjuem.

The sight of the ferry mid river would hurry the waiting passengers into walking towards the ramp while those on motorcycles would kick start them, readying to drive over the gangplank onto the ferry. Still others would cease conversations with fellow villagers waiting alongside and trace the approaching outline on the river, watching in silence before resuming their conversations.

The owner of the shop on the edge of the river, now closed possibly from lack of business, would announce to his patrons the approaching ferry as they quickly downed tea or spirits before paying up at the counter and walking out the door to the ramp to join the others.

As the ferry neared the ramp the engine would whine in the silence of the night, and punctuated by the rattling of chains lowering the gangplank it would light up in the headlights of vehicles waiting to drive over. A rush of feet and voices would head over the gangplank and onto the ferry as it swayed in the waters before stilling on the captain cutting its engines.

It is all over now. The ramp is hidden in the grass. The roads are empty. The shop is shut. And there is no ferry operating. Headlights no longer light up the river. Instead they take the bridge at Corjuem on their way over the river to Aldona, the cable-stayed bridge!

Behind me fishing nets dry on a bamboo pole. Further away three villagers sit talking on a sakho where passengers once sat out their wait for the river ferry to Aldona.

I meander in the grass and walk over to where two fishing boats lie in a tight embrace. Lying in silence they must whisper their memories of the river, of waiting voices that floated away into the night, and of how times were some years ago.

Often it is discontinuity that marks the passage of time while making memories along the way.

Related Posts

1. River Crossings
2. A Riverside Inn


bobbie said...

Your photographs are lovely, and your words carried me along with you on your journey.
I found it most interesting to see the Christian shrine, just as there are so many Hindu shrines along the roads in India.
thank you for your interesting post.

Samvedna said...

Beautiful picture with good narration..You made Goa come alive in front of my eyes.

Mumbai Paused said...

You made my day

Anuradha Shankar said...

this was great..... especially the bhagvad gita story... very true, and well said!!

karen said...

Wonderful! I enjoyed it so much.. and I have just also found your fascinating post about the buffalo, too!

Anil P said...

Bobbie: Thank you. Christian shrines abound along roadsides in Goa. Some of them are constructed by catholic families, others by local communities. At times the shrines carry among the locals the family name of the family that constructed it. Evenings by the shrine, like the one in the picture, are peaceable moments.

Antarman: Thank you.

Mumbai Paused: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be told that.

Anu: Thanks. The contrast in the calendar advertising liquor in the backdrop of Krishna's Bhagvad Gita moment was all the more striking for the irony of the association between Sri Krishna and the Kali Yuga, and the association between Kali Yuga and the vices as laid down in the texts, and the resultant aftermath as predicted in the scriptures.

Sightings on Indian roads can make for interesting contradictions indeed.

Karen: Thank you. I do hope the buffalo will be accorded more respect vis-a-vis its bath :-)

Delwyn said...

Hi there Anhi

thank you for taking me along with you on this late afternoon jaunt through the countryside to the Corjuem Mapusa River banks. I enjoyed your narrative and the liked to see the pictures of the Goa area. The countryside is very jungle like so I imagine the rainfall is high.
thank you Anhil for the lovely drive...
Happy days

Fishbowl said...

So beautiful:) I'm so glad to have followed your Goa trail...

Lakshmi said...

This is one part of goa I havent extensively travelled..beautiful as always

Berni said...

Thank you for leaving a comment on my blog regarding older folk and the brain.

Enjoyed reading your post. I am currently watching a six part documentary on our Education Television in British Columbia. It is about India and its history. We saw the second last night and it was about the Gupta Cholan and Tamil cultures and the story of Rama. We plan to follow the rest it was very interesting India has a rich history.

Renee said...

Just having another adventure with my international guide Anil.

Love Renee xoxo

radha said...

So beautifully narrated. It was as if we were right there. Almost like a travel documentary - one could be watching the video rather than reading a post. Lovely.

Darlene said...

Thank you for another interesting tour of your fascinating country. I enjoy the photos and documentary along side very much.

It is so nice to become educated in such an entertaining way.

Anonymous said...

"I meander in the grass and walk over to where two fishing boats lie in a tight embrace. Lying in silence they must whisper their memories of the river, of waiting voices that floated away into the night, and of how times were some years ago."

Anil, I love your way with words and your eyes for the world as you see it.

Amber Star said...

Anil P.,
I will have to come back tomorrow to read your story with all the attention it deserves. I did read the part about the end of the world after the death of Lord Krishna and the rise of Lord Kali. Interesting when in the Western world the year 2012 has been said to be the end of the world according to many sources, but mainly the Mayan Calendar. Our Christian Bible says the End will come like a theif in the night. In other words, we will not know when it is coming and would be wise to live our lives as if the end could be any second.

That small part of your post caught my attention just as I was going to sneak away to sleep and not post anything tonight. It was just too good not to say anything, though.

Sumandebray said...

I like the you narrated the story. You are a good story teller in my opinion.
The picture of the two fishing boats is very nice and the caption is priceless!
Thanks for stopping by at my blog

Sarah Laurence said...

I love the abstract composition of the bridge. It’s such a contrast to everything else. The two boats by the river are so serene. And I love your closure: “Often it is discontinuity that marks the passage of time while making memories along the way.”

Lori ann said...

It's always so interesting to see what you choose to share Anil. I love bridges (from a distance).

marja-leena said...

I was thinking of you this evening as we watched another episode of an excellent TV series called The Story of India. http://www.pbs.org/thestoryofindia/
Have you heard of it?

Anil P said...

Delwyn: Thank you. Goa is heavily forested, though the forest cover has been steadily reducing. Goa lies in the Western Ghats mountain ranges, the latter occupying a substantial portion of the tiny state on the West Coast of India.

Fishbowl: Thank you :-)

Lakshmi: Thank you. There's so much to Goa that it could well take more than a lifetime to explore, and absorb.

Berni: I believe you're referring to The Story of India by PBS.

Yes, it does have a very rich history.

Thank you.

Renee: It's a pleasure. You're welcome to join the trail anytime :-)

Radha: Thank you. I suppose a lot depends upon the reader's willingness to be carried along.

Darlene: Thank you :-)

The Things We Carried: Thank you. The inanimate will take the life the animate invests in them for, where no life meanders but yours, the urge to share is pressing. And everything becomes good company then, the the boats!

Amber Star: Thank you. The demise / disappearance of Krishna marked the end on one Yuga and the beginning of another, the Kali Yuga, the last of the cycle of mankind, and where vice will contribute to mankind's downfall.

Sumandebray: Thank you.

Sarah Laurence: Thank you. The bridge, while aesthetic like cable-stayed bridges tend to be, sits uneasily is what is essentially a rural landscape.

Lori Ann: Thank you. A wandering mind will wander democratically :-)

Marja-lenna: Thank you. Yes, I've heard of it. Several months ago when they released the series for the first time PBS had contacted me to help take their message out. I believe it's a very well done series. IF I remember correctly Michael Wood's book of the same name is out on the stands as well.

Parisbreakfasts said...

A lovely sojourne in Goa...
Ah Fanta - the universal thirst quenching orange drink...I'd forgotten
merci for stopping by

Lynn said...

Anil -

What an early morning gift your blog post is for me. Your photographs along with the lyrical descriptions are breathtaking. I will be back to read more. And thank you for stopping by my blog. Since you love "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Driving Miss Daisy" you must be interested in the southern United States - that is where I live. :) The south is much different these days, but certainly still beautiful.

Anil P said...

Paris Breakfasts: Thank you. The Fanta needs to be sufficiently cold to taste well. Ours was.

Lynn: Thank you. The book made for an excellent read. Driving Miss Daisy was a remarkable portrayal. I liked the characters in the movie, the pace at which the story unfolded, and the settings. I'm sure Southern United States must be beautiful indeed.

Anjuli said...

Anil- aah, yes, nothing like cold Fanta!! :) But even better than the cold beverage, is one of your blog updates. This one was no exception.

As always, the photographs and the corresponding dialogue whisk me away on a trip across the world. I find this saves me airfare :) Seriously though, thank you!!

magiceye said...


Merisi said...

many a travel magazine has less to offer than your always excellent blog articles! I enjoy each and every one immensely, you have taught me so much about India and its people!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your experience, your knowledge and your insights with us!

Grannymar said...

A first visit to your world for me, but well worth the journey. I will come back to be educated some more. Thank you.

Anil P said...

Anjuli: Thank you. Few things can beat Fanta orange on long rides. It sure can pep one up.

I'm encouraged to know you enjoy reading about these travels. Thank you.

Magiceye: Thank you.

Merisi: It's indeed a pleasure to learn you've enjoyed partaking of these journeys. I'm privileged to be able to tell the stories, and am encouraged by your kind comments. Thank you.

Grannymar: Thank you. You're most welcome.

Granny J said...

So very sad when a route that has served so well over the years is superceded by a modern "improvement", tho I must say that your bridge has more soul than the four-lane speedway that took the place of our little 89A highway.

Sid said...

Wow, the poli and batata vada look amazing. I didn't see such cycle shops on my visit to Goa previously.
And I guess the delicious looking poli is substituted by the pav in Mumbai.

Jude said...

Thank you for making my village of Corjuem sound so romantic - Yes the ferry point was the highlight of our lives as it was the only thing which connected us to the outside world.
You mentioned that the Poli and Vada was from Assnora which is at another end of Goa so I was keen to know if Corjuem was connected to Assnora via the other side which has the not so picturisque but movable bridge to Bicholim which you did not mention

Pascal said...

Hi Anil,

I was there.

Those pictures of Corjuem got me excited because I am from Corjuem, lived there and studied at Mae De Deus High School. I never realized that the old ferry point would mean so much to me until I saw those pictures. As kids, we spent a lot of time there at Jana's shop (pictured). We sat on those seats (pials) for hours doing nothing and today, I see those pictures ... it brought back memories. The fishing nets opposite those seats from Jana's shop ... reminded me of Dada and his brother. There's also that small house of Nunu who managed the canoes (tar) before the Ferries were brought in.
Looking at those pictures and saying "I was there".
Thank you.


Vishwanath Amonkar said...

Nice blog yeah. Loved it.